11 Creative Compound Exercises to Try
Hang around a gym long enough, and you'll probably hear talk of compound versus isolation moves. It's pretty self-explanatory: Compound exercises recruit multiple muscle groups (squats, for example, recruit your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and even your core for stability). On the other hand, isolation movements zero in on just one muscle (like the leg extension machine).
Both forms of exercise have merit, depending on your individual goals. But frankly, we like compound moves because they work more muscles in less time. (And who isn't time-crunched these days?) These 11 moves will not only slash your workout time, but they'll also challenge your upper body, lower body, and core in totally creative ways so you'll never get bored.
For some of the moves, you'll need a medium-weight kettlebell or dumbbell.
Photos and exercises provided by Brynn Putnam, certified trainer and founder of Refine Method
1. Box Crawl1 of 12
From all fours, lift your knees off the ground until hips are slightly higher than shoulders and you're supported by the balls of your feet. Crawl forward, stepping with your right hand and left foot, then left hand and right foot. Crawl in a box formation, with two crawls in each direction: forward, to the right, back, and to the left.
2. Rotational Lunge2 of 12
Step your right foot back, bend your knees, and engage your glutes, hamstrings and quads as you lower into a lunge position. Reach your arms straight out in front chest, hands clasped together. Squeeze your glutes and abs.
Keeping your shoulders and hips in one line, rotate 180 degrees toward your right shoulder, pivoting on the balls of your feet. You should now be in a lunge facing the opposite direction. Rotate left back to starting position.
Make sure you rotate with enough force so you almost knock yourself off balance. Use your abs to stabilize.
3. Quadruped Row to Arm Extension3 of 12
Start on all fours with a weight near your right hand. Pick up the weight and, using upper back and shoulders, perform a row, pulling the weight up toward your right ribs. At the top of the row, your elbow should be hugged close to your body, and your forearm in line with your natural waist.
Lower the weight back to the floor. Holding the weight, straighten your right arm and simultaneously raise a straight left arm reaching until it's in line with left ear. Focus on keeping shoulders pressed down and neck long throughout (no shoulder scrunching!).
4. Squat to Overhead Press4 of 12
Hold a weight with both hands at your chest and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Send your hips back and bend your knees as you come into a low squat.
Stand and press the weight overhead in one fluid movement. Bring the weight back to your chest.
5. Squat With Biceps Curl5 of 12
Hold a weight in front of your hips with straight arms and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Perform a squat.
At the bottom of your squat, perform a biceps curl, bending at the elbows to bring hands to shoulders, and extending all the way back down before rising to starting position.
6. Hip Drive Into Triceps Extension6 of 12
Sit on your knees. Hold the weight against your chest with both hands. Squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward to an upright kneeling position.
At the same time, press the weight overhead. Bend your elbows, using your triceps to lower the weight behind your head.
Press the weight back up, then lower it to your chest before returning to starting position. Focus on engaging your core throughout the exercise.
7. Hip Drive Halo Into Bottoms-Up Lunge7 of 12
Sit on your knees holding a weight against your chest in both hands. Squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward to an upright kneeling position.
Step your right foot forward. Squeezing your abs, circle the weight around your head (making a "halo"). Bringing the weight to your chest, step up to stand, keeping left foot off the ground.
Lower left knee back to the ground, and reverse the entire movement to starting position. Repeat on the other side, making sure to halo the weight in the opposite direction.
Make it easier: Perform the same movement, but skip the halo. Complete the hip drive, to kneeling lunge, to standing position without pause.
8. Glute Bridge With Overhead Press8 of 12
Lie face-up with your knees bent and core engaged. Holding a weight with both hands just below your sternum, squeeze your glutes to raise your hips into a bridge.
Push the weight straight up, then slowly lower it overhead with your elbows slightly bent. Slowly bring the weight back overhead, then lower it to your chest before lowering your hips to the ground.
Make it easier: Skip the overhead press. Hold weight in place while lifting hips, or extend weight up without bringing it overhead.
9. Lateral Lunge With Chest Press9 of 12
Hold a weight in both hands at your chest with your feet wider than your shoulders. Lean to the right, pushing hips back, bending right knee and keeping left leg straight. (You should feel your right glute engaged and a stretch on left leg.)
At the lowest part of the lunge, push the weight forward, engaging your pectorals. (Your arms don't need to get totally straight; focus on keeping your upper body upright.)
Pull the weight back to chest and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
10. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift With Row10 of 12
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart holding a weight in your right hand. Lift your right foot off the ground and hinge at the waist, leaning forward with a straight back. (Think of your body as one straight line from head to heel.)
Let your right arm naturally fall forward so it's perpendicular to your torso. At the lowest point, perform a row with the weight. Return to starting position.
Make it easier: Skip the row.
11. Squat Jumpback to Push-Up11 of 12
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lower into a squat. Jump back into a high plank position, keeping your abs tight and hands under sternum.
Perform a push-up. Hop feet forward to a wide squat so your hands are between your feet. Stand up and jump.
Make it easier: Step back one foot at a time into the high plank (instead of hopping) and skip the push-up.